The Mirror Of The Self: [31] Contemplation Of Fearlessness

Published: 13.03.2009

Fearlessness simply means freedom from fear. The question arises, How to be free from fear? How does one get rid of it? We are not able to get hold of the root of fear. Fear shoots at us from behind a cover; it has no real existence of its own. A highwayman is fearless; also a soldier. And how fearless is a kapalik or a yantrik who undertakes sadhana in the cremation ground in the awful darkness of the night! Is it always good to be fearless? A bandit is not afraid of death. He marches ahead in the face of death. A soldier lives in the midst of bullets. With cannons spitting out balls of fire, he holds the front. Should we not call him fearless? An average person is always fearful. A flash of lightning, a violent storm and rain - all these fill him with fear. He is frightened by any kind of noise or tumult.

A Thousand Shapes Of Fear

The question of fear and fearlessness is rather complex. To determine who is afraid and who is not is very difficult. Fear is not of one kind only; it has a thousand shapes. There is the fear of old age, of disease, of adoration, honour and reverence. One fears a thief, an earthquake and floods. Or one may be afraid of a person or thing. There is perhaps nothing in this world of which we are not afraid. We know no fearlessness. The robber, who is not afraid of dying, is yet afraid of his wife. Many such things transpire in life.

The Secret Fear

One girl asked her papa, "You work in the Department of Forests. Are you not afraid of the jungle?"

The father said, "No."

"But aren't you afraid of wild animals?"


"You aren't afraid of even the lion?"


The daughter said, "O father, I get it now. You are not afraid of anything except Mummy!"

It is difficult to say who is afraid of whom, but fear lies hidden somewhere in each man's heart. It manifests itself in relation to persons or things.

Fear Is Not Reckoned Among the Passions

The question arises: What is fear? In the language of karma shastra it may be said that karma is not reckoned among the passions. There are four passions - anger, pride, deceit and greed. Fear may be said to be a parasite of these. It subsists on the passions. A man is assailed by anger; he abuses or beats another person. When the fit of anger is over, he is filled with fear as regards the consequences of his action. Or a man may humiliate someone in a fit of pride and vanity. When the fit is over, the man wonders what the other person might do to him, how he might retaliate. So fear is born. A trickster is always afraid. He is forever thinking that the net of falsehood and deceit he has spread, might be exposed at any time and how terrible the consequences of such an exposure might be. Those maintaining fictitious and fraudulent accounts are all the time afraid of some income tax officer unexpectedly raiding their premises. Falsehood is in­evitably linked with deceit and the fear of exposure accompanies it forever. Fear engenders greed.

Succinctly, it may be said that wherever there is attachment, fear is bound to be. Out of this we may evolve a universal maxim - the greater the attachment, the greater is the fear; the greater the non-attachment, the more established is freedom from fear.

Abode Of Fear

The first abode of fear is infatuation with the body. The greater the attachment with the body, the greater the fear. A man wishes the body to persist and this gives rise to fear. That is why the spiritual masters emphatically declare: "For leading a spiritual life you must abandon all attachment to the body. Practise kayotsarg!" One of the meanings of kayotsarga is 'relaxation', but that is not its root meaning; the root meaning is, 'abandonment of attachment, renunciation’. The important term in Mahavira's technique of meditation is, 'giving up' or 'renunciation' of the body which means, 'Be not occupied with the upkeep of the body! Do not adorn it! Do not be attached to it! Moderate all bodily movement!'

Fearlessness: Fundamental Basis

Abandonment of attachment and renunciation that is the fundamental basis of fearlessness. It is the starting point of spirituality; also of fearlessness. The man, who is freed from pre-occupation with the body, knows no fear; none could be more fearless. If you really want to achieve the state of non-fear, do not think of fear or of removing it. No special effort is required therefore. Only get rid of your infatuation with the body and fearlessness would materialize of itself. The way to remove one's attachment with the body is constant self-awareness. The more self-aware a person is, the more he lives in the vicinity of the soul, and his fearlessness becomes more and more confirmed. If we dwell in our soul more and more, if we always keep alert, no fear will afflict us. "One who is fully awake, knows no fear - neither in the day, nor in the night, neither when he is alone, nor when he is in the midst of a crowd".

An Instance Of Fearlessness

The celebrated poet Rabindra Nath Tagore was writing a letter. All of a sudden, a man with a dagger in his hand entered the room. He said to the poet, "I'm going to kill you." The poet turned to the intruder with a tranquil countenance and said,

"O you've come to kill me!"

"Yes! I've come to kill you."

"Could you kindly wait for a little while?"

"Wait for a little while? But why?"

"Because I am replying to a correspondent's letter and I have not yet finished writing. After I have finished, you may do what you will."

At this, the visitor was amazed. However, he said, "All right! Finish your letter. I shall wait."

The poet was immersed in his writing. He wrote with a peaceful countenance as if nothing unusual had happened. But his visitor kept wondering, "A strange man, indeed! Pursuing his work even in the face of death! Is he not afraid of death at all?"

The poet completed his letter and turning to his visitor said, "Well, Sir! I have finished my work. I am now at your disposal."

At this, the man prostrated himself at the poet's feet and said, "How can I kill you? I'm a dammed fool! I could never imagine that any man could keep so unperturbed and fearless in the face of death! Your quiet grace and fearlessness would change the heart of the most ruthless person!"

There Is Only One Fear

Nobody can kill a man who knows how to die. The world thinks of killing only that person who does not know how to die or does not want to die, or who is afraid of the very name of death.

 To put it differently "None can kill a man who knows how to live. Only the man who knows no fear - the utterly fearless person - knows how to live well; only such a man knows the great art of dying!"

Fearlessness is founded on the absence of attachment. The man who is not attached to his body, fears nothing. In fact, there is only one kind of fear - the fear of death. Under this great fear are subsumed all other fears. All other fears are merely shadows and images of the fear of death. We want to get hold of the counter-image, but the image itself we do not apprehend. Unless we first get hold of the image, the counter-image cannot be dissolved. The child wishes to grasp the disc of the sun or the moon in the waters of the pond, but never succeeds. The sparrow, fighting its own image in the mirror, gets drenched in its own blood. The lion, too, swoops down on his own reflection in the well. All these fights take place between images and shadows. No one has access to reality on which alone can fearlessness be founded.

Maintenance Of The Body Is Necessary

The question arises, Should we not maintain the body in good shape? We live in a practical world, utilize our body, accomplish work through it. It is not, therefore, feasible that the body should be left uncared for altogether. For harmonious functioning of the body, we must take care of it. It is for the preservation and utilization of the body that we have breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the same purpose we drink water many times a day. If the body gets soiled, we clean it; if it falls sick, we tend it. All this relates to body-maintenance. In these circumstan­ces, a state of total non-fear is unimaginable.

Fear As Preserver

Many times a question arises if fear is never desirable. It cannot be said that fear is always unwanted. We must consider it from two angles. Fearlessness is our goal, but fear will continue to be our companion to some extent. We can of course discipline our fear, instead of letting it remain unregulated. Fear should become our preserver or controller. A celebrated maxim of Ayurveda is 'If a man is a victim of insanity, if he grows mad, the first remedy to be applied is fear.' If an insane person comes across a man who can inspire fear in him, his madness will be alleviated. The very sight of the inspirer of dread makes the mad man behave normally. Fear in such a case serves as a medicine or a therapy. Fear is a person's perpetual saviour. If a man engaged in the commission of an evil deed starts thinking of the consequen­ces of his action, if he says to himself, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?“ this very fear of the world's opinion becomes a man's saviour. The man who is completely devoid of the feelings of veneration, prestige and honour grows reckless and therefore dangerous, whereas another person inspired by the consideration that nothing should stain his reputation or lower the prestige of his family and friends, is preserved from many evils. The fear of losing his dignity is an individual's great saviour. This is also the first consideration with a muni, "I should not be guilty of a conduct which might in any way lower the prestige of my religious Order or attract public censure." This fear saves a muni from going astray.

The Utility Of Fear

In the world of conduct, the usefulness of fear cannot be denied. Creative fear is a man's great protector. A man by himself is incomplete. He must be aware of his limitations. Wholeness can be thought of only in a holistic atmosphere. It is idle to talk of perfection in a state of imperfection. As we break out of the ground of incompleteness, let us proceed in the direction of wholeness. Let us embrace fearlessness in the right perspective. It would be hypocritical for a man to talk of fearlessness while he continues in wrongdoing. One man said to another, 'O brother! What you are doing is wrong. It is not good. You will only meet with reproach and punishment.' The other man, utterly heedless of what was said, answered, Tm not afraid of anybody. How dare you admonish me!' To persevere in wrongdoing and then to boast, 'I'm not afraid of anybody!' is foolishness compounded. In fact, only he can be fearless who does no wrong. Only such a person can say, I'm not afraid of anybody.' To indulge in thieving and robbery, in exploitation and plunder, and to boast of being utterly fearless, is sheer brazenness and hypocrisy.

Objective View

Let us look at fear and fearlessness objectively. Only he can be truly fearless who has conquered himself. No wrong is committed and no weakness manifests itself. It is in a state of total awareness that fearlessness can come into being. To continue in wrongdoing and to claim to be fearless is to delude oneself. Let us accept the reality and not indulge in self-delusion. Jainism constitutes a factual, objective philosophy. A believer in Jainism recognizes that as long as deluding karma and its attributes exist, fear must continue. That anger, pride, attachment, greed, hatred, contempt, non-restraint, sexual desire or and lust should continue without arousing fear, is just not possible. He who wants to experience non-fear must first of all strive to subjugate the pas­sions.

Passions And Fearlessness

He who undertakes the contemplation of fearlessness, con­tinuously contemplates upon the following "The attitude of fear­lessness is developing; fear is subsiding." It is in this background that other feelings are echoed, "The feeling of anger is subsiding, that of forgiveness getting stronger. The instinct of greed is languishing, that of contentment rising. The feeling of pride and attachment is subsiding, that of straightforwardness and goodwill being strengthened." Only in such a state can the contemplation of fearlessness be fruitful. If we wish to cultivate the spirit of fearlessness but neglect the other passions, how will fearlessness evolve? If anger is intensified, pride increases, attachment deepens, and greed proliferates, practising the bhavana of fear­lessness would be tantamount to unintelligent repetition without any fruitful consummation. Let us not delude ourselves that by merely practising the contemplation of fearlessness in the posture of kayotsarg we shall attain fearlessness. All our effort would prove inadequate. For a fruitful consummation, while we practise the bhavana of fearlessness, the feeling of detachment must also be duly reinforced. Let us try to be free of all infatuation so as to pave the ground for the manifestation of fearlessness in our life.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Ayurveda
  3. Bhavana
  4. Body
  5. Contemplation
  6. Deceit
  7. Discipline
  8. Fear
  9. Fearlessness
  10. Greed
  11. Jainism
  12. Karma
  13. Kayotsarg
  14. Kayotsarga
  15. Meditation
  16. Muni
  17. Nath
  18. Papa
  19. Pride
  20. Sadhana
  21. Shastra
  22. Soul
  23. Tagore
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